Ok, so perhaps it’s not all quite so dramatic as the historical image of paper being defiantly nailed to a church door, but it does seem there is quite a bit shaking down in the style typing world at the moment, and that a splintering of factions is imminent. Blog followers may recall that I had a bit of a meltdown in my August Sew Your Kibbe recap post, wherein I had a bit of an existential crisis over certain posts within the Kibbe community criticizing the way certain other community members are portraying his work. It seems that I wasn’t the only one who had a bit of a reaction to this somewhat pervasive sentiment, as one of my favorite YouTubers, Merriam Style, is addressing this same topic in her most recent video:
She goes into more depth with her blog post, but, essentially, she is divorcing herself from Kibbe’s naming conventions in an attempt to focus more on the lines of the body and less on the preconceived personality associations that people tend to place with body type names like “Romantic” and “Gamine.” She is also moving away from using terms like “yin and yang” or “masculine and feminine” for the same reason. Granted, since she offers content and services for sale, her motives are slightly different than mine in addressing this topic, but I don’t think that makes her any less sincere in her efforts.
Why is this important? Well, on a grander scale, I think it is an excellent example of how online communities fragment, and can really be an excellent parallel to so many historical examples of similar events that have shaped the world. Honestly, if we really wanted to get into it, this could be a fascinating study in the way society behaves at large, and why this often leads to so much divisiveness between groups. I don’t know that I really want to fall down that rabbit hole at the moment, but, I think the basis is there, if you really wanted to look at it.*
On a bit less sweeping of a note, I think this is an interesting look at how evolution and change happens. Clearly, Merriam is moving forward with her own system of styling, which is heavily based on the written works of Kibbe’s Metamorphosis. One thing I really like about her video is how she goes through the lineage of style systems – clearly, Kibbe’s work has roots in systems that historically preceded his own, and I think it is natural that this would evolve and change over time. Of course, there are the die-hard Kibbe adherents who will presumably be incredibly offended at the changes Merriam is going to implement, though I also think that it’s a bit hard to reconcile the sentiment of “get off my lawn” with displeasure over someone actually complying with the request.
On a more personal level, I think it really helps me clarify what I’ve been feeling this past month, and sort of help me think about what I want to do with the Kibbe related content on my blog moving forward. After my mini-meltdown, I did what any neurotic obsessive-compulsive nerd would do – I did some research. Up to this point I’d been completely avoiding the Facebook Kibbe groups, partially because I’m not the largest fan of Facebook, and partially because I think selling my soul might be an easier agreement than what I had to go through to join the Facebook forums. But, my desire to understand exactly how we’ve all got it so wrong had to be satiated, and I felt the only way to accomplish this was to go to the source.
I can’t really say I’ve gotten everything I wanted to get out of the forums yet, and while I’d like to say it’s just because there is so much material to go through (there is), honestly, it’s mostly because I’m a bit afraid to look at it. At this point I feel a bit like an archaeologist wading through finds at a dig site where half of the artifacts might be cursed and the other half are pricelessly valuable… Ok, so, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the instructions upon entry do make you feel like you have to handle everything with kid gloves, and paranoid that you are going to knock some precious vase off a very tall pedestal. It’s not exactly the most inviting environment… though I have to say the sentiment of the community is starkly contrasted by the writing of David Kibbe himself, which is overwhelmingly positive, encouraging, and inviting. So maybe if I just stick to looking at the content directly from David it won’t be so bad?
Although I feel like I still have a lot to examine, I can see why those in the Facebook group feel that everyone who exists outside of the group are approaching the whole thing backwards. Even from the limited study I’ve done, the way Kibbe describes his approach in his modern media is really more holistic than the segmented way that the concepts of his style system are described in his book. Does this stem from an evolution and refinement of Kibbe’s own methods? A heavy-handed editor who was overly interested in sales back in the day? Some combination of both of these things? It’s hard to say, but I feel I can at least come to terms with the root of the frustrations from those who have been actively involved with Kibbe’s social media outlets over the past several years.
So where does that leave everyone else? Well, since I spent a pretty penny in acquiring Metamorphosis and reading the entire book, I can also honestly say that I don’t think those who are discussing his system on social media are doing a bad job. In fact, I think they are all incredibly faithful to the source material, if you consider the source material to be the book. Herein lies, I think, the crux of the issue. The real difference is not that most people what to use Kibbe’s methodology as a get rich quick sort of scheme (although I’m sure it does apply to some), but more that there is a fundamental ideological difference between those who think the foundation of the system is the book from the 1980s and those who think the foundation is David Kibbe himself.
This is the sort of deeply divisive core belief that I think may be irreconcilable within the Kibbe community moving forward, and is already fracturing adherents into clearly defined camps; one quite obviously being the direct followers of Kibbe’s more recent writings with an emphasis on the more holistic approach to bringing about your Metamorphosis, and the other being more focused on the purely physical attributes of the body in providing guidelines in how to dress. One one hand, the Image ID is being used as a way to express the deep inner desires of your core through a personal style, and on the other you are really getting a bunch of guidelines that can be used to frame a personal style in a bit more of a prescriptive and analytical process.
So, where does that leave this blog? Well, at the end of the day, this is (or at least aspires to be) a blog about sewing, not a blog about style systems. I’ve gone quite in depth with the Kibbe system as it pertains to the original text because I found it helpful. And even though Kibbe himself no longer uses many of these characterizations or techniques, in a historical sense, this information is still presented accurately in that it has been transcribed faithfully from the source material it references (the book). Similarly, my own interpretations of how the text of the novel translates to modern day sewing patterns has always been presented as my own opinion and interpretation of the system and of the original text. In that vein, it likely makes more sense for me to focus on the information that will parallel Merriam’s re-named style system, as the focus on the physicality of the lines and shapes of garments is more in line with the how I’ve been interpreting the system up to this point. I think this approach is more consistent with creating capsule wardrobes and sustainability practices that have been hot topics in the sewing sphere over the past several years as well, and will likely be more palatable to many sewists, especially those who really resented the conflagration of personal style with the internal essences that were tangentially associated with the Image IDs.
On the other hand, sewing also gives us a unique chance to follow Kibbe’s more transformative approach because we really can turn our wildest fashion fantasies into reality. The idea of transforming yourself with your style seems a lot more attainable when you know that you won’t have to fight off the depression of searching for things in stores only to find there are severe issues with fabrication, fit, or the price tag. It should be easier to dress up everyday styles with unique pieces when you can make something totally unique instead of searching for it on the internet. Kibbe’s approach is certainly more focused on creating full wardrobe looks – head to toe ensembles that encompass everything from hair to shoes and accessories. This approach might be preferred by someone who likes to have a lot of wardrobe options, and really doesn’t like to worry about one sewing project coordinating with another – it’s about creating looks that express your inner style, not a wardrobe that can mix and match to generate different looks.
So, in this weird way, I think that as a sewing blog, maybe I can encompass both factions of this Kibbe divide, though I do think people will likely settle on one side or another. Personally, while I love the idea of transforming myself in to the movie star of my own life, at this point I’d settle for convincingly hiding the fact that I’m completely exhausted all of the time and that it’s a struggle to get dressed in the morning, let alone getting dressed stylishly. So I think, for now, I will probably settle for the more prescriptive, analytical approach. Am I selling myself short? Dwelling in my own comforting pool of knowledge? Refusing to move forward with the changing times? Betraying the person who inspired all of this in the first place? Perhaps. But I think these are all things I will continue to grapple with as time goes on, so perhaps my perspectives will change as I dive more into the literature that exists on this topic. Kibbe often refers to this process as a journey, and in that sense, this next step for me is going to be one of practical implementation as opposed to intellectual transformation. I do plan to continue to review and study the works of Kibbe, but I’m also not going to discount the offerings of the various YouTube and social media channels that exist. If I consider their work to be a separate entity than David Kibbe himself, then I think there is still much that is helpful and can be learned from the interpretations of others. Probably this is not the clear break that my historical analogy would have you believe, but time will tell when determining how deep the division really runs.
*In case you do really want to look at it, I think this crash course video might be helpful for providing framework. Also, I feel I should possibly offer something of an apology for the heavy historical analogies peppered throughout this post, but, well, I’m on something of a historical kick since I realized YouTube can help me augment my piss-poor high school education in this realm. That, and I think the comparison is incredibly apt, if somewhat flippant.